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Press crucial to nation-building and must be protected vs foreign meddling

What I found very sad in the controversy over the website Rappler is that there really has been little outrage over its vile deed, which is indisputably as follows:

Its profit-hungry owners, influence-seeking foreigners, and its fame-lusting editor-in-chief were so willing to violate the Constitution’s provision that is intended to shield media from foreigners and ensure its freedom to help develop our people’s consciousness as a nation.

Indeed, it is the press that is crucial to nation-building, and this is the reason the Constitution totally bans any foreign participation in media.

Yet, here are people who have been spreading the fallacy that there should not even be any such restrictions.
For instance, it is so insulting to the framers of the Constitution that Fidel Ramos’ former socioeconomic planning chief, Cielito Habito, in his newspaper column even dismissed the Constitution’s provision banning foreign money in media as “fear of foreigners.” That simply is the English translation of the “xenophobia,” a pejorative term that has come to mean irrational fear and hatred of other races.

Habito, sadly, like other Rappler supporters, has been so ignorant of the most important nature of the Press.

Imagined community

Our nation “kicked off ” in a newspaper and its successors asked us to rally to the flag. But some want foreigners meddling in our media.

The Press – and I use the term to refer to newspapers, as well as to their digital versions and internet-only news sites – isn’t just a tool for disseminating information. It also does not just serve as a check to the powerful and the rich, even if it often has been.

The most important thing about newspapers is that they are, as the acclaimed late scholar Benedict Anderson had explained, an embodiment of that “imagined community” we call the nation. Even in our case, the first stirrings of a nation were through a newspaper, the La Solidaridad, founded in 1889, even if it was published in Spain and in Spanish.

This should be clear from the obvious fact that a newspaper doesn’t report everything interesting in the world, but only what happens in its particular nation, or what would interest its citizens. An American would identify, or be “in communion with” The New York Times (or Washington Post) wherever he lives in the world. Even if he is in the Philippines he could never be in communion with The Manila Times, nor with the other three major broadsheets.

To very easily understand this: An Ateneo student would identify with The Guidon and a UP scholar with The Collegian. Even if called only “newsletters,” these publications in effect are the embodiment of their schools and their ideals. (Wouldn’t it be horrific if an Ateneo student financed The Collegian, at the height of their UAAP games?)

The most developed countries in the world, in fact, emerged at the turn of the century with a newspaper, or a few newspapers, developing and solidifying its citizens’ consciousness as a nation: The New York Times (1851), Chicago Tribune (1847), The Guardian (London, 1851); the then USSR’s Pravda (1912); and of course, China’s Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily, 1948).

Not coincidental

The Allied Powers that won World War II knew the importance of newspapers in building a nation that they allowed the countries they destroyed to publish their newspapers soon after the war: Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung (1945, the first newspaper allowed by the occupying US military) and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (1949), as well as Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun.

It isn’t coincidental that the countries whose citizens are the most nationalistic have newspapers with the biggest circulations in the world: Yomiuri Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun, with readers of 9 million and 7 million, respectively. Their newspapers are able to reach most of their citizens, for them to “commune” with the nation daily, often at the breakfast table.

All countries in the world restrict or ban foreign money in their newspapers. The 20 percent foreign participation in media allowed in some countries such as the US, has been allowed only in order for these huge firms to tap the stock market, in which investors are so spread out that it is impossible for them to have any influence, let alone control, over the publication.

This is in contrast to the American North Base Media and Omidyar Network’s P50 million funds in Rappler, which, concealed by the artifice called depositary receipts, represent nearly half of the outfit’s capitalization.

The world’s richest media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, gave up his Australian citizenship and became an American so he could be allowed to buy the biggest media conglomerate there, which owns Twentieth Century Fox and The Wall Street Journal.

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew saw the media as so important to nation-building and his island-state’s growth that he didn’t just ban foreign ownership of media, or let Singaporean businesses operate newspapers. He, instead, set up the Singapore Press Holdings, controlled by his party, which to this day owns all of the newspapers and broadcast media in that country.

Habito, in his column so slavish to foreign capital, claimed that the internet has torn down the nation’s borders that “there’s no longer any point to the nationality restriction on our mass media.”


This guy is so ignorant. The top newspapers on the internet are all still nation-bound, the majority such as cnn.com, nytimes.com and theguardian.com are simply cyber versions of their print editions, even if they have additional features, such as breaking-news reportage. The sites in the Philippines that have the biggest viewers are the internet versions of our TV networks and newspapers.

Huffingtonpost.com, the most successful website-only news outfit, is still mainly a publication devoted to the US. Its attempts to have versions for a few nations have not been successful – since citizens of those countries can’t relate or commune with a version of a US newsite.

Even your Facebook page is nation-bound as its algorithms will post on your timeline those made by Filipinos or in the Philippines, since your internet service provider will be reported as Philippine-based.

The Securities and Exchange Commission was simply defending the Constitution – and its aim of developing national consciousness – by ruling that even an internet-only news outfit falls within the definition of media.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide whether our Press, especially the three biggest broadsheets and the two largest TV networks, have helped build our nation and develop our national consciousness.

Or whether they have merely been tools used by the oligarchy, especially the Yellow Cult — which would explain partly why nationalism in this country has all but vanished.